Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Blue Jasmine

Blue Jasmine
seen @ Lincoln Plaza Cinemas, New York, NY

Another year, another Woody Allen movie. The surprise success of Midnight in Paris a couple of years ago - his biggest financial hit ever as well as a Best Picture nominee - hasn't altered his cinematic vision in any significant way. The man knows how to stay out of the Hollywood limelight and not get caught up in the glitz - most of the time. We all know that he's had his share of controversy over the years. Like I said when I talked about Mel Gibson, though, one has to figure out how to separate the artist from the art, because the latter will ultimately outlive the former.

Woody's track record as a writer/director speaks for itself - not that I think he's perfect. Do I wish he'd work with more actors of color? Yeah. Do I think his vision of New York is, on the whole, narrow and seen from a position of entrenched privilege? Definitely. But I still love Hannah and Her Sisters. I still love Crimes and Misdemeanors. I still love Annie Hall. At the end of the day, Woody makes the films he wants to make, and there's no point in trying to get him to change just so he can fit my needs, especially when I can look elsewhere for films that can do that.

That said, I hadn't planned on seeing Blue Jasmine. There was (and still is!) other stuff I wanted to see sooner, and though I had heard that Cate Blanchett is terrific in the film (which she totally is), I was gonna pass because I hardly ever go out of my way to see a Woody Allen movie anymore. Even with Midnight in Paris - I kept putting it off and putting it off because I saw how huge a hit it was becoming and I figured, oh well, I'll get to it sooner or later. It played at the Kew Gardens for months and I kept telling myself, it's got to end eventually, you'd better get over there and see it - but I didn't. Can't give you an exact reason why.

These days, unless it's one of his old movies (I saw Manhattan at Brooklyn Bridge Park a couple of years ago, for instance), I end up going to a Woody movie because my friends want to see it. Still, I don't mind because it means hanging out with them - like when Andi and I saw You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, one of Woody's more forgettable films.

Vija, Andi and I are part of this little movie-going club initially started by this chick named Alicia (whom I mentioned here), but she abandoned it after awhile. Maybe she thought there wasn't enough participation; I'm not sure. Anyway, Vija has taken over and there's been a bit of a resurgence as a result. She hasn't done anything that differently, but there have been more outings, which is good. Nobody, however, is willing to stray from the art house. I doubt I could ever convince any of them to take in a film like Pacific Rim, for instance. That's not really a problem; I have friends I can see movies like that with, but just once, it would be nice...

Jasmine is about the wife of a Bernie Madoff-type character who must learn to adjust to doing without all her riches and wealth after her husband, like Madoff, was indicted for fraud. She moves from New York to San Francisco and lives with her working-class sister. Tensions arise when it becomes clear she can't adjust to this new life well. Like I said, Blanchett is astounding and the movie as a whole isn't bad. I liked the ambiguous ending.

Though we've gone to different theaters around New York, Lincoln Plaza seems to be a favorite within our little group. The movie started twenty minutes earlier than expected, but I got there just in time. Andi, however, didn't make it; I think she got a late start from the Bronx or something. Vija and her boyfriend Franz were there, as well as this woman named Lynn whom I had never met before. 

I hadn't seen Vija in awhile and was looking forward to dinner afterwards, but she had other plans, so that left the three of us to eat at a cafe. Franz couldn't stop raving about the film. He kept comparing Jasmine to the work of Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini. Not being familiar with his work, I couldn't tell you how accurate that comparison is (I tried watching Salo once and did not get very far at all), though I suppose Jasmine did have a sort-of Neo-Realist feel to it. I guess. 

I gotta say a brief word about Andrew Dice Clay, who's also in Jasmine. Lynn told me afterwards that Woody had recruited Dice for the movie after seeing him on the TV show Entourage. He's in only a few scenes in the beginning and one towards the end, but he acquitted himself well. Granted, his character wasn't too far removed from himself, but still, he fit into this movie better than I would've expected. I'm almost tempted to take back every bad thing I said about him.


  1. The movie as a whole was very surprising in how dramatic and emotional it was. Certain aspects of Wooody's humor shined, but not fully to where we felt it being uneven. Very nice change-of-pace for him, even if it doesn't feel like he's doing anything remotely new for himself. Nice thoughts, Rich.

  2. Thanks for reminding me: this movie does have quite a bit of trademark Woody humor, which surprised me. I thought it was gonna be much more of a drama.

  3. You can always suggest Pacific Rim. There are people in the movie club who I don't know.

  4. Rich, as Marsha Collack, a.k.a. FlickChick, said in her recent post in her blog A PERSON IN THE DARK, BLUE JASMINE feels like a modern-day STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE. I see that as a good thing! You sure can't beat that cast. Andrew Dice Clay -- who knew he had that range? Looks like I'll have to check out BLUE JASMINE!

  5. I knew people were comparing this to 'Streetcar,' but the comparison didn't hit me until afterwards. Now, of course, I totally see it.


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